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Orchestrating Effective Communication in the Digital Age

MMM coverI am both pleased and proud that Jim Horan, the creator of the One Page Business Plan®, wrote a Foreword for my new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (now due to be published on or about February 25).

In fact, I liked the Foreword so much that I am sharing it with all of you today. Here it is, in its entirety:

 

The nature of conversation and communication has changed dramatically. We find ourselves communicating faster, more frequently, over greater distances, and with many more people. Yet we seem to be less effective.

Why is that so? Because of technology every business is now doing business globally; there are almost no meaningful geographic boundaries any more. Yes, there are still a few basically local businesses – the barbershop, the nail salon, the local farmers market. But almost everybody else is now doing business regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We are also starting up businesses at a much faster rate. There is an expectation that a business can go from startup to scale-up in a much shorter period of time. Read more

The Four Dimensions of a Successful Meeting

Smiling interview panel holding score cards

How do you know your meeting has been successful?

This question came up during one of the research interviews for my new book (Making Meetings Matter: How Successful Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age), and I’ve been pondering it for some time.

At one level the answer is straightforward; it depends on how well, and how completely, the meeting achieved your initial purpose(s). If you set a goal of reaching a group decision, or designing a new marketing campaign, or resolving a budget conflict, and you achieve that purpose, then it’s easy to say the meeting was successful.

Or was it? Like all other human experience, meetings have multiple outcomes and consequences, and the quality of the group’s decision – or invention, or problem resolution – may not meet your expectations, even it was adequate for the situation.

More importantly, you may have made progress even if you didn’t achieve your ultimate goal. Read more

Five Simple Rules for Making Distributed Meetings more Effective

Know The RulesMost of us today spend more time in meetings with people who are somewhere else than we do with our colleagues down the hall. And while most of the “rules” for leading face-to-face meetings also apply equally well to distributed meetings, the situation is clearly different.

In many distributed team situations the members live far away from each other and/or the central office. They may never have met in person, or they may see each other only occasionally.

When team members are not co-located, they typically have relatively independent personal lives and social-support systems. Realistically, they just don’t have a lot in common beyond their work. They go to different churches, synagogues, and mosques; they participate in different local town events; their children attend different schools and participate in different sports programs. And they just don’t bump into each other at the grocery store or on commuter trains and buses.

If you are leading a distributed team you need to take that reality into account, and to plan and lead your conference calls differently than you do when everyone is in the same room.

Here are five simple rules that will make your distributed meetings both productive and popular: Read more

Why Meetings Matter

People Sleeping During Presentation“A meeting is an indispensable tool – if you don’t want to get anything done.”

                – John Kenneth Galbraith

As Fast Company founder Alan Webber pointed out over twenty years ago, conversation is at the very heart of knowledge-based work. Yet most of us don’t recognize how dependent we are on conversations for learning, for making sense of our experiences, for building relationships, for innovation, and for sorting out how we feel about ourselves and our work.

The beauty of the way knowledge-based organizations operate is that the more engaged – and the more respected – workers are, the more productive they are, and the happier their customers are as well. And almost all successful organizations today are knowledge-based; even retail stores and factories depend on people who are well-educated, computer-literate, and self-directed.

The best way to improve the work experience – and to enhance productivity, increase engagement, and make work fun again – is to change the way those meetings we spend hours and hours sitting through are designed, led, and experienced. Read more

Making the Invisible Visible

conversationsAlan Webber suggested over 20 years ago that the core work of knowledge-based organizations is conversation – the creation and exchange of ideas, information, knowledge, and even wisdom (see “What’s So New about the New Economy?Harvard Business Review, January-February 1993).

Then Webber asks and answers a really important question about the role of management in a knowledge-based business:

If the new work of the company is conversation, then what is the job the manager? Put simply: to create an environment where employees can have productive conversations rather than counterproductive ones, useful conversations rather than useless ones.

In my humble opinion, we should be spending far more energy than we do focusing on the quality of corporate conversations, and on teaching managers at all levels how to start and foster meaningful conversations that ultimately produce value for both customers and employees. Read more

Making Meetings Matter: New Rules and Cool Tools for Corporate Conversations in the Digital Age

MMM-Front4

I may be celebrating prematurely, but permit me just a bit of shameless self-promotion.

As I have mentioned many times previously, I’ve been working for the past year on this book about corporate conversations and, in particular, the settings in which most conversations take place: formal meetings.

The book is now in the hands of my publisher, Henry DeVries of Indie Books International; it’s due to be published in early January 2016. I can’t wait!

There’s lots of work still to do to make the book worthy of your attention, but I’m now concentrating on the second big job any author has: creating “buzz” and visibility. Writing the book is challenging enough, but getting the word out about it is just as important.

I’m going to be very upfront and open about that process, because I’m learning as I go, and I have this core belief that you will find the process as interesting as I do. I hope I’m right! Read more

Making Meetings Matter

NoC&CLast week I called for an end to the “Command and Control” model of leadership (“Rethinking Leadership: Death to Taylorism!”).

We must think about leadership very differently for the richly interconnected world we now live in – an economy and a society that futurist Don Tapscott calls “The Age of Networked Knowledge” (see “Four Principles for the Open World,” Tapscott’s 2012 TEDGlobal talk).

A twenty-something German blogger named Philipp Riederle understands better than anyone else I know just what “networked knowledge” means for the way we live and work.

In Riederle’s view there are at least three very profound ways that our information access and personal communications have changed in the last decade – three realities that most of the world now takes for granted, but that are absolutely unprecedented in human history. Read more

Don’t Stop Talking About Tomorrow: A Guide to Surviving the Future

conversations1How often do you talk with your colleagues about the future and how it will affect your organization?

As I have mentioned many, many times here and elsewhere, most leadership teams spend less than 3% of their collective time talking with each other about the future – of their company, their industry, and the world in general.

In my experience, most of us live day to day assuming that the future will be just like the recent past. We realize that there are some predictable trends, and that some things (like the weather) go through regular cycles, but for the most part we expect tomorrow to be similar to today.

Well, to be more accurate, we either expect sameness, or we are so overwhelmed by change, uncertainty, and innovation that we hunker down and live in fear that our lives are out of control. We worry – often rightfully so – about being blindsided by new products, new competitors, or new rules and regulations that put control of our businesses in someone else’s hands. And that kind of worry actually leads to believing, or at least hoping, that tomorrow will be just like today. Read more

Data Builds Understanding; Stories Build Commitment

Once Upon A Time

Last week I raised the question (and answered it) “Why are there so many bad meetings?” This week I focus more on the positive:  what good meetings feel like, and how some organizations are working to not only enhance meeting experiences but also to make meetings more effective and meaningful.

Recently a friend told me about how one clothing company has developed a culture of storytelling that dramatically affects the way its meetings work.

According to Mary, a director of workplace strategy at that company, its meetings are filled with storytelling, and the presentations are heavily image-based, with a minimum of words on the individual slides. So instead of boring bullet points and slides filled to overflowing with data, the presentations feel more like personal stories, with heroes and villains, crises and victories, and lots of emotional content. Presenters seek to influence and inspire through images, stories, and feelings rather than through “hard data.” Read more

Why are there so many bad meetings?

Update on September 10, 2015: I just produced my first live broadcast on Periscope, summarizing the ideas in this post. Here’s the 10-minute video recording of that broadcast, which includes a brief overview of the five reasons I believe we experience so many bad meetings:


There are over 11 million corporate meetings a day in the United States alone. 11 million! Yet, as I am fond of saying, I have yet to meet anyone who is dying for their next meeting to start.

When was the last timBoring meeting!e you sat through a meeting that you found boring, a waste of time, and unproductive? Everyone I talk to can tell me about a recent meeting they attended but hated.

Yet most people who work in offices today spend most of their time in meetings of one kind or another. Maybe it’s a two-person conversation, and maybe it’s a group meeting with six or more participants. As Alan Webber pointed out over 20 years ago (“What’s So New About the New Economy?Harvard Business Review, Jan/Feb 1993), conversation is at the heart of knowledge-based work. It’s how we learn, exchange information, solve problems, test our ideas, create new knowledge, and connect with our colleagues and customers.

So why do so many meetings turn out so badly? I believe there are at least five factors affecting the quality of our meeting experiences: Read more